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LPGA adds 4 tournaments including 3 in the US

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (AP)—The LPGA Tour begins its new season with fouradditional tournaments and a lot more reason for optimism.

Just as it looked as though the tour would suffer irreparable harm from theeconomic downturn, Commissioner Mike Whan delivered a schedule of 27 tournamentsworth $47 million (36.8 million euros) in prize money, signaling a strongrecovery.

Three of the new tournaments announced Tuesday are in the United States,including the return of two popular events in Ohio and Virginia.

The biggest surprise was the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, which was not playeda year ago. The LPGA is also going back to Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg,Virginia, a favorite course among players which was last played in 2009.

The tour previously announced new tournaments in Hawaii and Canada, alongwith sanctioning the Women’s Australian Open, which will kick off the new seasonFeb. 9-12 at fabled Royal Melbourne Golf Club.

Another improvement to the schedule is the elimination of long periods ofinactivity.

Last year, the LPGA was coming off its first major championship—the KraftNabisco Championship, won by Stacy Lewis—when it took three weeks off beforeits next tournament. Even with a global schedule in which tournaments will beplayed in a dozen countries, the LPGA will not go more than two weeks withoutplaying in 2012.

It might also get more attention for the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held aweek before the men’s British Open the last three years. This year, the Women’sOpen will be played July 5-8, two weeks before the British Open.

The Women’s British Open, meanwhile, was moved back a month in part becauseof the London Olympics. It will be held at Royal Liverpool on Sept. 13-16.

The LPGA goes to Australia, Thailand and Singapore in consecutive weeks tostart the year.

The first U.S. tournament will be the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup outsidePhoenix in March—and this time the players will actually get paid. A year ago,the tournament had a mock purse in which the earnings were applied toward theLPGA money list, but the money actually went toward a charity program to honorthe tour’s founders.

Whan said the LPGA was able to renew eight of the nine tournament contractsthat ended in 2011, and 10 of its 11 marketing agreements. The one tournament itlost was the State Farm Classic in Illinois.

Along with the new tournaments, Whan said the North American events will getlive television coverage on the Golf Channel on weekends, instead of being shownon tape delay.